The ABC's of the UN and Israel: From WEOG to JUSCANZ

"These acronyms will drive you crazy."
-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power

Before an AJC audience on February 10, 2014, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power pledged to “never give up” in the fight to “chip away” against anti-Israel bias at the UN.

In her remarks, Ambassador Power mentioned WEOG and JUSCANZ—the little known, but critically important acronyms that define Israel’s place at the UN.

So, what in the world is WEOG?

The UN’s 193 member states are divided into five regional groups. Their main purpose is to coordinate and regulate the candidacies of member states to UN-related positions, though some of them also serve as forums for consultations on substantive political issues.

WEOG is the acronym given to the Western European and Others Group.

Israel is located in West Asia and should be a member of the Asian regional group. Unfortunately, some members of that group, for political reasons, have opposed Israel’s inclusion.

In 2000, Israel was finally invited to join WEOG in New York. Unlike other regional groups, WEOG is not based on geography per se, but on a common political ground—all its members are Western style democracies.

Since Israel’s admission to WEOG, Israeli ambassadors to the UN were twice elected to the high post of Vice President of the UN General Assembly. Most significantly, in late 2013, Israel announced its historic candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council for 2019-2020, a post it could never have sought before joining WEOG.

In 2013, Israel was also admitted to WEOG at the UN in Geneva, home to the UN Human Rights Council, which has long served as a hotbed of anti-Israel activity.

What about JUSCANZ?

JUSCANZ, often referred to verbally as “juice cans” is a caucus within the UN’s Third Committee. The acronym comes from the countries that make up the caucus, including Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In February 2014, due to intensive lobbying by the U.S., Israel joined the JUSCANZ group in New York.It joined in Geneva in 2010. As a result, Israel may now participate fully in the key behind-the-scenes work that takes place within these regional coordinating groups.

Why do they matter?

Beyond the issue of election to UN organs, Israel’s inclusion in WEOG and JUSCANZ has an important symbolic value. It underscores the notion that Israel is a legitimate member of the family of nations represented at the UN.

What next?

Israel remains the only UN member state subjected each year to numerous one-sided resolutions by the UN General Assembly. It is relentlessly scrutinized by entities within the UN whose specific mandate is to promote the Palestinian cause against Israel. And it is still repeatedly singled out and censured by the Human Rights Council, which maintains a separate agenda item on Israeli practices, while the human rights abuses of the rest of the world—including such undemocratic regimes as Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea—are all discussed under one generic agenda item.